Facebook Suspends WhatsApp Data Sharing in the U.K. Following Privacy Probe

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Facebook has agreed to pause data collection from WhatsApp users in the United Kingdom following a government probe into the company's privacy policy (via Engadget).

Back in August, Facebook-owned WhatsApp updated its terms of service and privacy policy to reflect that it would begin sharing select data with the social media network, including the phone number a user verifies during the registration process and the last time a user accessed the service.

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Facebook argued that the new policy would allow it to better fight spam and abuse, deliver better friend suggestions and more relevant ads. However, the company soon came under fire from European Privacy watchdogs who cited "serious concerns" over the policy change, while the U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is now eight weeks into its own probe.

The U.K.'s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham explained the reasons for the probe on the ICO website:

"I had concerns that consumers weren't being properly protected, and it's fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven't changed that view. I don't think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don't think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information. I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30-day window."

ICO said it was "pleased" that Facebook had agreed to pause using data from U.K. WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes. As part of the inquiry, the ICO has also asked Facebook to sign an "undertaking" that describes how it will collect and use data and give users "ongoing control" over what is shared.

We also want individuals to have the opportunity to be given an unambiguous choice before Facebook start using that information and to be given the opportunity to change that decision at any point in the future. We think consumers deserve a greater level of information and protection, but so far Facebook and WhatsApp haven’t agreed. If Facebook starts using the data without valid consent, it may face enforcement action from my office.

WhatsApp's updated terms and privacy policy did not affect its encryption policy. All messages sent through the service continue to be end-to-end encrypted, a measure that has been in place since April.

Top Rated Comments

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52 months ago
Data sharing and end-to-end encryption both at the same time? I don't understand.

I hope Whatsapp dies sooner than later, the sooner imessage is made out for Android the better, or some other messaging app.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
iMessage doesn't have this problem. The content of your private messages shouldn't be a moneymaking revenue system for some untrustworthy company.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
I think I'll stick to iMessage and Signal ('https://ssd.eff.org/en/module/how-use-signal-ios').
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
This is good news

When they originally signed the deal they said nothing will be shared at all. Now we had a 30 day window to opt out, which of course was hidden behind another menu that most people would not have found
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago

WhatsApp does not access the content of your messages. Only your phone number and and "aggregated analytical data" are shared with Facebook.

1. prove to me that WhatsApp doesn't scan the content of my messages. 2. I don't want my phone number shared with ANYONE 3. I don't want when I use the app shared with ANYONE. Facebook has the WORST privacy policies, I don't trust them to maintain my privacy even if they claim they are. I'm glad they are being investigated.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago

The actual message is encrypted, however Whatsapp still has to transmit it. thus, they know from which phone, to which number, and when.
[doublepost=1478637920][/doublepost]
1. Prove us they do
2. Then WhatsApp isn't the app to use anyway, and they don't look at it : they use it to check if your account exists on Facebook and match people
3. Why do you even care ?

As to prove they don't read it : end to end encryption. If they can, then Apple can as well.

End to end encryption is not proof that they don't read it. It means that the messages are transmitted encrypted between you and the receiver. On your phone, it's accessible by the app hence it's possible for it to submit it elsewhere. (And it actually does so with iCloud chat backups, which is just an example of how purportedly "e2e encrypted" data may end up in certain other places)
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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